Adding a printer to Linux Mint, LMDE or Ubuntu: an Encore

Some time ago I blogged about the difficulty of installing printers under Linux Mint 12 and Ubuntu 11.10, a post that to date remains the most popular on this blog.

After messing about with installing printers again, I’d like to expand upon that post.

Recently I felt the need to change the OS on my primary laptop, a black Macbook 2,1.

Until then I had been using Linux Mint 12 and despite coming with the somewhat unpopular Gnome-Shell it had proved quite stable and usable.

This time, instead of moving to the latest regular Linux Mint release (currently Mint 14, Nadia), I decided to install Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), the distribution that I use on my desktop in my office. LMDE, however proved less than ideal on the Macbook so I’ve since replaced it with Ubuntu 12.10.

When it came to installing printers under LMDE and Ubuntu I had hoped that I would not encounter the frustration I blogged about last time. Unfortunately the same problem exists under both distributions, so once again I was forced to utilise the Gnome 2.x printer configuration application, system-config-printer described in my earlier post.

As it turns out, I actually prefer the old Gnome 2.x printer application rather than the newer Gnome 3.x one that ships with Gnome-Shell, Cinnamon and Unity.

Although built upon GTK 2.x, it retains all the features that were present under Gnome 2.x (such as printer properties and the ability to easily delete jobs from the print queue) that for some reason seem to have gone AWOL in the Gnome 3.x printer application.

Unfortunately although the app is installed by default under Mint, LMDE and (I believe) Ubuntu, it does not appear in the menu for any of these DTEs

On the upside, there are at least two ways an application can be added to the menu with relative ease.

Problem: Gnome 2.x Printers Application does not appear in menu for Cinnamon, Gnome-Shell or Unity.

Solution 1: One way to add this application to the menu is to fire up the Alacarte Menu Editor (also called Main Menu) and add an entry for the printer application by hand.

Procedure: Check to see if alacarte and system-config-printer are installed by opening a terminal and typing the following:

$ sudo apt-get install alacarte system-config-printer

Now, Alacarte should be accessible under Accessories in Cinnamon or by searching in Gnome-Shell or Unity.

Failing that, it can be launched from the command line by typing the following command:

$ alacarte

Next, navigate to the sub-menu where you would like to add the new launcher, I use System Tools | Preferences.

AlacarteClick the ‘New Item’ button, add a name, comment and the command ‘system-config-printer’, find a nice icon (something like /usr/share/icons/gnome-colors-common/scalable/devices/printer.svg should do).

Alacarte2

Finally, click OK and you should be good to go.

Solution 2: A second, more elegant, way of making sure you have easy access to your printer settings is to add a .desktop file to your ~/.local/share/applications folder. This file is read by your desktop environment and a menu entry is automatically created for you.

I won’t go into detail on just what .desktop files are and how they are interpreted by your system, as Joe over at the Linux Critic blog has a great post titled the Anatomy of a .desktop File that does just that and I encourage you to go and read his post.

What I will do here is show you how to do what I have done on my system.

Procedure: First, open a new file called system-config-printer.desktop in your favourite text editor. As we know we need to save this file in our ~/.local/share/applications directory, lets go ahead and open it there straight away.

$ gedit ~/.local/share/applications/system-config-printer.desktop

Next copy and paste the following into the file.

#!/usr/bin/env xdg-open

[Desktop Entry]
Version=1.0
Type=Application
Terminal=false
Icon[en_AU]=printer1
Name[en_AU]=Printers (Non-Gnome Shell Config)A
Exec=system-config-printer
Comment[en_AU]=Traditional Gnome Printer Management Application
Name=Printers (Non-Gnome Shell Config)
Comment=Traditional Gnome Printer Management Application
Icon=/usr/share/icons/gnome-colors-common/22x22/devices/printer.png
Categories=Settings

Finally, save the file and exit your text editor.

Which ever of the above solutions you’ve followed you should now have a new Printers menu item under your Preferences sub-menu. If you don’t, go ahead a log out and back in again.

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